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Step forward in finding Alzheimer's cure: Academia Sinica

2011/01/12 18:05:18

Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) Taiwan's top research institute AcademiaSinica announced new scientific findings at a press conferenceTuesday that could help develop cures for neurodegenerative diseasessuch as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Major factors that regulate the aggregation of proteins in thebrain, a common feature of many neurodegenerative diseases, have beenidentified, said Hu Chin-kun, a research fellow at the institution'sLaboratory of Statistical and Computational Physics of the Instituteof Physics.

Protein aggregation, generally believed to cause loss of neuronstructure and function, plays an important role in the onset ofneurodegenerative diseases, said Hu, adding that a betterunderstanding of the condition is useful in finding ways to stop itfrom happening in the first place.

Hu and his team found, using the lattice model, that thetemperature at which protein aggregates more easily is related to theprobability of a protein sequence being engaged in aggregation.

Applying the molecular dynamics theory, they also found thatprotein chains aggregate at lower temperatures when the bendingangle-dependent and torsion angle-dependent interactions are small.

The findings were published in a series of papers in the PhysicalReview Letters published Nov. 19, 2010 and in the Journal of thePhysical Society of Japan in February, May and October of that year.

"The findings are like threads amongst a complicated array ofproblems, " he said, noting that continuous efforts are needed tocrack the codes of neurodegenerative diseases.

"Hopefully within three to five years, we will have abreakthrough, " said Hu.

(By Nancy Liu)
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